The Blackhawks have gotten where they are this season by playing smart hockey and keeping mistakes to a minimum. Monday, those mistakes were prevalent.
And the Los Angeles Kings were more than willing to take advantage of them.
Michael Frolik scored twice in his move to the top line, but Dustin Brown scored the game-winner with 1:27 remaining in regulation as the Kings beat the Blackhawks 5-4 at the United Center. The Blackhawks maintain their three-point lead over Anaheim in the Western Conference, as the Ducks lost to the San Jose Sharks, 5-3.
The Blackhawks, still without Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp (both sidelined with shoulder injuries), were coming off a four-day break in the schedule. They looked solid in the first period when Frolik’s first goal since the Jan. 19 season opener, also against the Kings, gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 advantage.
But it went awry after that. Poor play on out from goaltending hurt the Blackhawks, who never held their leads long after the one in the first period.
“(With the Kings) getting shut out two games in a row, they were going to be hungry. We didn’t respond to the challenge that was there tonight,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I was disappointed with how we played and what we gave them. We can’t be happy with what we gave them.”
The Blackhawks started giving in the second period, and Anze Kopitar was the first to capitalize. Then Jarret Stoll scored a short-handed goal just 12 seconds into a Blackhawks power play for a 2-1 lead. Frolik scored his second of the game to even the score seven minutes later.
[HIGHLIGHTS: Blackhawks can't hold late lead to Kings]
Patrick Kane appeared to give the Blackhawks late second-period momentum and a 3-2 lead with his 17th of the season, coming with just 41 seconds left in the frame. But Drew Doughty drove hard the other way, through a few Blackhawks, and Dwight King got the rebound goal off his skate with just 0.5 seconds left to tie it at 3.
That one, especially, hurt.
“You can look at their third and fifth goals late in the periods. Especially when we made it 3-2 and they tied it up and got momentum. We didn’t play well with the lead,” Kane said. “It was a tough loss, for sure.”
Brown had the dagger, a goal he scored off his own rebound. Corey Crawford allowed five goals on 36 shots for the Blackhawks.
It was a bittersweet night for Frolik, who broke out of his scoring doldrums in a losing cause.
“It kind of sucks,” he said. “(Less than) two minutes left and we give up a goal off the face off. It was a tough bounce and it hurts. It’s nice to get the monkey off your back; I didn’t score in a while. But I’d be happier if we’d won the game.”
The Blackahwks have played some great hockey at times this season; hence, that 24-game unbeaten streak to start. But they had a sloppy finish in Anaheim that was evident again in most of tonight’s game against the Kings.
“They came up with more loose pucks and sustained offensive zone time. We would’ve loved to have killed some of those plays but we didn’t. That’s the strength of their team and they’re good at it. We have to be better defending in that area,” Quenneville said. “Mistakes were preventable in the prior game. Tonight it was ongoing, which is (something) we have to talk about.”